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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Are Heirlooms Hiding in the Brush?

Posted by | December 4, 2018 | Filed under: Culture

During the October leaf fall, walkers along the Cart Path, Barrier Beach Trail, and Pilger Trail often find apples strewn across the footpaths. Though it’s been decades since the orchards of Laudholm Farm have been pruned or picked, those old trees go on bearing fruit just the same. But most folks who have plucked a pome for a taste test probably didn’t finish it to the core.

Beyond the old farm buildings, apple trees are one of the few prominent signs of the reserve’s agricultural history, so the stewardship program has promoted several “tree rescue” efforts over the years. Late this summer, energetic Volunteers For Peace made headway on the project with help from our own Team Lorax.

Just getting at the trees can be difficult. Thorny barberry surrounds some, while others all but disappear under a blanket of bittersweet, that cursed vine that wraps apple trees in a stranglehold and breaks their limbs.

With gloves, loppers, and an occasional chainsaw, volunteers clipped and yanked the noxious invasives, favoring the fruit trees with broad berths for blossoming. When the apples dropped, they coated the cleared ground with a bounty for deer, chipmunks, and squirrels.

How old are those trees? When were these orchards planted? The broadside that advertised the “great sale of seaside property at auction, September 1, 1881” specified “two acres of orchard — 200 thrifty apple trees bearing choice fruit” among the farm’s characteristics. Whether those trees survived subsequent brutal winters, Prohibition, and the Great Depression is uncertain. Maybe they did last 150 years or more. Or maybe the Lord family replaced or reinforced them. And it’s not unlikely at least some of today’s trees are the result of self-seeding.

Regardless of the trees’ ages, Team Lorax is curious about which apple varieties might be found in the neglected orchard. With heritage apples in vogue of late, a couple of apple experts have stepped up to help the reserve discover whether any antique cultivars persist.

From Watermark 35(2): Fall 2018

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